It has been two years since we last went to one of our very favorite spots in Mexico, Casa Ninamu in Sayulita (above). While the house itself has remained exactly the same — an open-air paradise tucked into the jungle overlooking the beach — the years have brought some noticeable changes to the town: more traffic, more travelers, more new restaurants and shops, higher prices. It’s still a long way from being overrun (I mean, caballeros still tie their horses to a tree in the jungle for an afternoon), but that distinct feeling of being in on a secret is definitely starting to fade.
The biggest downside of Sayulita being so busy these days is it that it’s increasingly more difficult to book Casa Ninamu. Luckily, owners Johann Ackerman and Anne Menke seem to anticipate what you need before you need it. Not only have they added a couple rooms at their main outpost, TeiTiare Estates, but they also started booking reservations at a new penthouse in Punta Mita, about 20 minutes north. Part of a gated community, which might normally be a red flag for us, the perks are such a boon for families traveling with children. Guests get access to two beautiful beach clubs, including the St. Regis, where we swam in the giant infinity saltwater pool, ate lunch on the beach, took out kayaks, drank margaritas at sunset and played in the far more gentle waves of the Pacific. Our kids loved it, and anytime we didn’t feel like being around hotel guests, we could just jump in our golf cart and cruise back to our supremely private penthouse off-site. It’s the perfect resort experience for people who don’t like resorts (or think they don’t, like me).
Outfitted with bright whites, handmade Mexican textiles, floor pillows and natural, rustic materials, the clean-lined penthouse has a casual, beach vibe. On the giant driftwood coffee table sits fashion photographer Anne Menke’s limited-edition book, See the World Beautiful. A colossal ode to her talent, the gorgeous pages feature the personal work Anne pursued while traveling the world for fashion shoots. She captures the beauty of everyday moments in remote places, going “a little farther up the mountain, a little farther down that bumpy dirt road.” A few of the photographs in the book also hang on the walls, which lends the space a sense of casual exhibition, more intimate than a gallery. In the smallest measures, like turning down a hallway or waking up in the morning, you feel the sweeping, far-flung greatness of her work around you.
At least once a day, we headed into the truly tiny fishing village — lunch, dinner, surf lessons, fresh mahimahi from the fishmonger — and developed a fondness for its beachside restaurants, friendliness and easygoing vibe. Our son’s surfing instructor, Alex, who runs a biking/surfing/touring business with his family (my boys thought his sweet teenaged sons were so cool), explained that Punta de Mita, which is has fixed borders on each side, can’t get bigger, no matter how many travelers fall in love with its simple, laid-back charms. Book it by emailing Johann at email@example.com, or Teitiare.com.